Game developers – submit a SIGGRAPH Talk before February 18!

The deadline for submitting a Talk to SIGGRAPH is February 18 – less than two weeks away as I’m writing this.  Although the time is short, all game developers working in graphics should seriously consider submitting one; it’s not a lot of work, and the potential benefits are huge.  As a member of the 2010 conference committee, I thought I’d take a little time to elucidate.

SIGGRAPH 2010 is in Los Angeles this summer.  Although most people think of SIGGRAPH in connection with academic papers, it is also where film production people share practical tips and tricks, show off cool things they did on their last film, learn from their colleagues, and make professional connections.  Over the last few years, there has been a steadily growing game developer presence as well, which is exciting because SIGGRAPH is a unique opportunity for these two graphics communities to meet and learn from each other. The convergence between the technology, production methods, and artistic vision of film and games is a critical trend in both industries, and SIGGRAPH is where the rubber meets the road.

In 2010, SIGGRAPH is making a big push to increase the amount of game content.  Stop and think for a minute; isn’t there something you’ve done over the past year or two that’s just wicked awesome?  Wouldn’t it be cool to show it off not just to your fellow game developers, but to people from companies like ILM, Pixar and Sony Pictures Imageworks?  Imagine the conversations you could have, about adapting your technique for film use or improving it with ideas taken from film production!

Most film production content is presented as 20-minute Talks (formerly called Sketches); this makes the most sense for game developers as well.  Submitting a Talk requires only a one-page abstract and takes little time.  If you happen to have some video or additional documentation ready you can attach those as supplementary material.  This can help the reviewers assess your technique, but is not required.  If your talk is accepted, you have until the day of your presentation in late July to prepare slides (just 20 minutes worth).

To help see the level of detail expected in the one-page abstract, here are three examples.

A little time invested in submitting a Talk for SIGGRAPH 2010 can pay back considerable dividends in career development and advancement, so go for it!

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  1. Mauricio’s avatar

    Some companies are squeamish about releasing information that they consider “trade secrets,” whether or not they are really secret. How do you convince your employer that it is in the best interest of the company (not just yourself) to give a talk like this?

  2. Naty’s avatar


    That’s a great question. Companies differ in their approaches to this. Some (like Crytek and Bungie) happily divulge detailed technical information even before the games using the techniques have shipped. Others have a policy against ever disclosing anything; most are somewhere in the middle. If your company is more on the secretive side, there are several responses. One is that the companies with the most open policies are often the most successful, so this openness doesn’t seem to be hurting them. A good compromise is to wait until the game has shipped before disclosure; then any competitors who copy the technique will be chasing your tail as you evolve improved techniques for the next game. Some companies make sure to submit patent applications before publication. I’m personally against software patents, but this does give one possible answer to the lawyers, and if you were going to patent it anyway you might was well publish it afterwards (NOTE: I’m not a lawyer and none of this is to be construed as legal advice of any kind).

    Game development isn’t zero-sum; all developers make heavy use of techniques invented by others, from the most basic (shadow mapping) to the more arcane (SSAO). Publishing advanced algorithms is positive PR for the company, and helps recruit good people (smart people will want to work where other smart people are, and publication is a good way to show this).

    Finally, by publishing your technique, you will get many eyes looking at it, and quite likely some of them will find flaws that you didn’t see, or think of extensions and improvements. Although nothing forces these people to inform you of these improvements, in practice after you publish most people will, often in excited conversations just after the presentation. This is another direct benefit; you can think of it as encouraging development in a direction which your company has already found useful, to your future benefit.

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